Sunday, 27 December 2009

Better late than Never

Well, the Christmas period is now on its way out... all we've got to look forward to now is New Year, which never really means much to myself but this year might be different (or not)...

anyway... this well needed break has given me time to get some things out of the way and the chance to not do others... but after making a bit of a hash of the project on the last day (due to printing difficulties) I'm now going to catch up on adding my research to my blog (then I'll add up the pieces of work I made too) and although I doubt it will now affect my mark anymore, it needs to be done for my own closure.

Mars and further:

After our own Moon the next closest sources for water (in ice form) are still within our Solar system and not some distant planet in a galaxy far, far away.

Space exploration has fallen down the back of the sofa of society, forgotten about except by those with an interest in it or until theres some discover that can benefit the human race. (i'm kind of going off on a tangent here, whether its to add cause to my research on water in space or just because I'm feeling a little defensive about space exploration). A few years ago, our interest was firmly set on Mars and discovering the hidden water on it's surface, from the ice layer beneath the soil, the believed liquid water flowing and carving it's way through the Martian landscape and the idea that Mars once held oceans.

The NASA Phoenix Mars Lander has given us the most extensive evidence of water on Mars from the images and data it has sent back from the planet's surface. Evidence of ice can be seen in its own tracks across the surface but it has also collected video of snow falling from the clouds on Mars.

This article from New Scientist ( or the original NASA article: ) shows evidence of the changing landscape on Mars due to flowing water escaping from beneath its surface. Some believe it is merely the result of dust storms eroding away at the sides of the craters but when looking at Discover magazine's article on the evidence that Mars held oceans ( ) you see carved rock similar to that of the Grand Canyon, where water has eroded down through the rock creating a valley/canyon and may have once held and channeled water on it's surface.

However, things are a still uncertain about where the future of Space exploration lies... whether it is on the surface of Mars or our Moon or even further a field...

This article ( ), from Discover, interested me after I originally found out about the idea of a habitable zone in our solar system. Basically, since the big bang, our Sun has been expanding and growing hotter (which may mean global warming is not man made) but the heat given off of the Sun helps maintain water (h20) as a liquid on our planet, as well as allowing it to evaporate (but our atmosphere stops it all escaping completely and keeps the cycle going).

The band/zone that scientists say provides the optimal light, heat and radiation from the sun has our little blue planet sat in it, but it hasn't always been like this and nor will it remain. It is universally presumed that life needs water to survive and planets need water to sustain life which, based on Earth's placement in our Solar system makes it the perfect place... almost too perfect. We are comfortably sat in this band at the moment, but as I said, the Sun is continuing to heat up and expand which means the band/zone will shift too and may be why we are finding more encouraging signs of water on our Moon and Mars. It could also mean Mercury and Venus
could have once held water ( ) and supported life, but that Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and further may support life in the future if not at this very time but what will happen to Earth when this zone does shift?

If the above is true though, then why is it that we believe that some of the Moon's of Jupiter and Saturn hold liquid water or in the case of Europa are completely covered in an ocean of water under a sheet of ice... These all fall outside of the habitable zone but at the same time we are only just at the point in history were we are exploring deeper into our Solar system. It may be 10 years before we head out to these "Moons" (i say moons as technically the are planets, but they are captured in the gravitational orbit of Jupiter much like our own moon), but I can't wait to see what is discovered.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Water in Space

Ok, so I have neglected the blog a little bit, but that is purely because I took a bit of time off for my birthday and I've spent the rest of the time researching material... but it now means I've left myself with very little time to actually produce something as a final piece and I need to get all of my findings online for this friday... :/

damn... (i might run over a bit)...

I can't remember if I initially spoke about what got me onto water and space, but with the tone of the initial briefing looking very grim, I wanted a more positive subject to run at... and the recent finding of water on the moon sparked my interest, combining my love of space with science and dreams of science fiction.

With all the talk of Climate Change, the Copenhagen conference (currently going on) and Humankind basically destroying the planet we inhabit... the idea of finding another Earth for us to relocate to is growing in popularity. Although it sounds like something that only appears in tv shows or comics, recent discoveries are now adding new levels of plausibility to the idea, admittedly this still wont happen for god knows how many years, but "we" are searching local and distant galaxies for stars like our Sun that would provide sunlight and heat to neighboring planets with sustainable atmospheres.

But bringing this all back a bit closer to home, we have discovered signs of water existing or that existed on planets and moons in our own solar system. If you pick up any book on our solar system, you'll be presented with information about water on our Moon (averaging only 238,854 miles away from us!), evidence of water on Mars, Jupiter's moon: Europa or Saturn's moon: Titan. To me, this is amazing, since I was young I have pictured the other planets and moons to be like our deserts, barren and inhospitable to ourselves but the evidence of water suddenly opens up new possibilities and reasons to explore these places in search of life (maybe not your typical green or grey aliens, but lifeforms, microbes and bacteria),or ways in which we can harvest the water for our own benefits.

The Moon:

In early October this year, NASA bascially crashed a $79 million satellite into the Moon's surface, and it was intentional. This BBC page actually has some good graphics about half way down the page and a boring video at the top ( here ) as it explains the reasoning behind the crash. The idea was to give the LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) one final mission to analyse the 6 mile high plume of debris kicked up from the inital impact of a spent rocket from the satellite, before the satellite itself crashed into the southern crater on the moon. The results showed promise, as from the data received proved there was water on the Moon, but also that it's a substantial ammount, 25 gallons was measured within the debris which is approx 94 litres or 200 pints for the average layman. (By the way, this was invisible to us here on Earth)

As I mentioned, I have always thought of our Moon like a giant, dry dust ball that is full of craters from passing meteors crashing into it's surface (or satellites!) but in November 2008, India launched it's first satellite, Chandrayaan-1 on it's mission to study the Moon,

"It will explore its minerals, map the terrain and find out whether water and helium deposits exist. It will also give us a deeper understanding about the planet Earth itself or its origins, Earlier missions did not come out with a full understanding of the moon and that is the reason scientists are still interested.

This will lay the foundation for bigger missions and also open up new possibilities of international networking and support for planetary programmes."

Taken from the Chandrayaan-1 homepage (here)

In a recent issue of Discover magazine, unfortunately a solely American publication, there was the first detailed map produced by the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter), which was attached and launched along with the LCROSS satellite but detached before the LCROSS crash, showing exactly where the water deposits are on the Moon's surface,

However, all this information is getting mixed signals, some say that it will now pave the way for future missions to the Moon in hopes of establishing a lunar base from which we can then launch other missions deeper into space, but others refer back to President Obama's inital plans to reduce NASA's budget and redirect funds from manned space exploration into education. The year 2020 seems to be the decider year, with at least 3 possibilities planned from returning to the Moon, heading to Mars again, or exploring Jupiter and it's Moons. The fourth option was to head to Titan, one of Saturn's Moons, as it appears to have an atmosphere of Oxygen too, but the decision was made to look to Jupiter and Europa. Either way, I'm really excited... in my opinion we can only really discover new things in 2 places now, the deepest depths of the sea and space... I know which I'm voting for...

next to come... Mars, Europa and Titan.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

SPACE... the NEXT frontier...

During this current project, a lot of peoples ideas have been turning towards disasters, how water has affected individuals, societies, countries and industry/business... but I wanted to look at something a bit more positive. During the initial briefing, the recent NASA mission to prove the existence of water on the moon was mentioned, and I figured I'd look into the future of water and if we could get fresh water supplies from space.

However, all I seem to have discovered so far is that, Yes there is water out in space, however we're only just at the point in history where NASA are exploring alternatives to sending water to the International Space Station and looking at mining or purifying water from the moon etc. With discussion about their budget, NASA will most likely be reigned in from their far distant exploration and focus more on missions to the moon in hopes of establishing a lunar base.

I'm a little lost at the moment with what information I am actually find out or prove, since I can't exactly head to space and conduct my own experiments, but I may end up looking more at how astronauts use their limited supplies of water and how this can be brought back to Earth and implemented into our every day lives.

As I mentioned a couple of posts earlier, I hoped to present my research in a more visual way than just file/folder of papers, but I'm not sure if I can come up with an idea for it based on my current research nor a reason to use screen printing. Posters, for years, were the best form of communicating to the general public and I thought I'd be able to produce some informative pieces on the future of water in space and how i believe we should invest money into exploring our solar system and beyond, but this isn't such a big deal for us here in England.

This is why my idea is changing, gradually... I've got more areas of research in which I need to delve but I'm worried I won't actually produce anything on a subject that I do enjoy!